HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By MP John Hayes
Lincolnshire has a low crime rate. We suffer fewer crimes of violence, thefts and burglaries than many other parts of Britain. However, a National Farmers’ Union report, published last year, revealed Lincolnshire to be the most targeted county for particular ‘rural’ crimes, notably illegal hare coursing, with the cost estimated at over £2 million.
It is a sobering reality, that South Lincolnshire in particular has been identified as being among the worst hit by this pernicious practice.
Far from the romantic image of the Lincolnshire Poacher — a congenial hail-fellow of stout heart — thuggish gangs of coursers, in pursuit of their cruel aims, subject farmers and landowners to the most appalling intimidation.
Lincolnshire Police have found that the majority of those involved in coursing already have criminal records and will threaten extreme violence against anyone attempting to challenge or collect evidence against them.
Given that the average age of farmers is now 59, and that they often work alone, with little potential for witnesses to any horror that might be perpetrated, these threats pose a genuine danger to individuals and communities.
In addition to such viciousness, hare coursers routinely place a heavy economic burden on their victims, causing criminal damage to gates, fences and crops. The costs in time and resources needed to make repairs and install increased security measures are often difficult to bear.
Tackling illegal hare coursing is a local priority for me and will continue to be so. That’s why I have met farmers, local councillors, the Police and Crime Commissioner and other senior police officers over recent months.
When the matter was raised in Parliament in February, I was next to the Policing Minister relaying the specific problems we face in South Holland and since then have pursued the issue with him and Marc Jones, our PCC.
Challenges like this distil the defining principles for a Member of Parliament. Ultimately, my job is not about opportunist campaigns, nor bursts of enthusiasm around election times. Instead, whether on an individual basis, working with local councillors, or in Parliament itself, it is about expounding and championing – from day to day and year to year – the best interests of our constituency. People tire of politicians who just turn up at elections; it is all year round work that really counts.